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FEATURE: Imperative of Aerospace University

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A report from International Air Transport Association (IATA), shows that the aviation industry, including the airlines and its supply chains, is estimated to contribute about 600 million dollars to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to the report, spending by foreign tourists contribute a further 1.1 billion dollars to Nigeria’s GDP, bringing the total contributions to about 1.7 billion dollars.

It further says that only 0.4 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP is currently supported by inputs from the air transport sector and foreign tourists coming into the country.

The report further shows that if properly harnessed, the aviation industry could contribute 5 per cent to the GDP.

“ Aviation industry in Nigeria has been growing, driven by Airline Operations, Fleet Management, Leasing and Procurement, Maintenance and Planning, Passenger and Cargo Handling, Passenger Traffic, Competency Based Training and Assessment, Regulatory Requirements, Risk, Safety and Security Management.

“ The air transport sector in Nigeria supports airlines, airport operators’ on-site enterprises (retails and restaurants), aircraft manufacturers and air navigation service providers that employ over 20,000 people in Nigeria.

“Furthermore, by buying goods and supplying services from local suppliers, the sector supports another 35,000 jobs, and a further 16,000 jobs through wages it pays its employees, some of which is spent on consumer goods and services.

“Each new aircraft operated in Nigeria provides 450 further jobs. West Africa and Africa is lacking sufficient aviation industry, equipped with the needed infrastructure for overall GDP growth, “ the report added.

In was the desire to address the infrastructural deficit and boost manpower development that the Federal Government proposed the establishment of an Aerospace University.

Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika, presented the proposal to the National Universities Commission (NUC).

Presenting the concept note to NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, Sirika said that the African Aviation and Aerospace University, Abuja, would be dedicated to research and development of knowledge in aviation and aerospace.

The minister stated that the decision to establish the specialised university was informed by the need to fill some identified gaps in the growth and development of the aviation sector.

Sirika said that Nigeria could not meet demands in the aviation sector due to infrastructural deficits, pilots, maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers and aeronautics professionals.

He added that deficiency in aviation managers and all other essential positions that help the world to connect flights made the nation not to be able to meet the demands.

Sirika said that majority of the advanced skills were sourced outside the country over the years, while existing skilled workforce went to foreign countries.

He maintained that the preference of airline operators to employ foreign pilots and send Nigerian pilots abroad for training at huge costs drain the country’s foreign exchange.

“This is the situation in most African countries. When we took the leadership in civil aviation, we identified and understood gap in the growth and development of civil aviation in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.

“ We are deficient in research and development in civil aviation and aerospace technology and that has caused a lot of underdevelopment of the sector and made us to be backward.

“ The huge gaps and deficiencies have left the civil aviation sector to be managed with basic knowledge of either being a pilot or aircraft maintenance engineer, with no one going into research and development to understand the civil aviation and aerospace industry,’’ the minister said.

He stressed that the potential of the university to serve the civil aviation and aerospace sectors within the continent could not be overemphasized.

“It is therefore essential and critical to have a strategic institution with carefully selected study programmes and resources (both human and material).

“ An institution to prepare graduates for a career in aviation business, aerospace science and produce experts in aviation science technology that can compete globally with students from other international aviation universities.

“This is in line with the Nigerian Aviation Roadmap. Such programmes of study are expected to cover undergraduate, postgraduate and professional diploma degrees in aviation and aerospace science, including related fields that are required in the industry.“

According to him, the African Aviation and Aerospace University, will strive to be accredited by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), ACI, the Royal Aeronautical Society and relevant ISO standards to strengthen its credibility.

According to him, the ministry has been working for four years to develop a concept note, based on the advice by NUC executive secretary for critique to fast track process of setting up the university.

Sirika expressed gratitude to the NUC executive secretary and his team for guiding the process leading to the submission of the concept note, and the assurance that it will be expeditiously concluded.

On his own part, NUC Executive Secretary, Rasheed, who spoke after receiving the note from the minister, said the commission would engage some professors to perfect the concept note for immediate approval.

“I can assure you that by the end of July, 2021, we are going to have a brand new university, the first of its kind in Abuja, first African university dedicated to aviation and aerospace study in the country.”

“The value of such university cannot be quantified.

“This aviation under your guidance, will be the first to show the way that we can support the establishment of specialised university that won’t only serve us, but serve the African continent and the international community,“ he said.

By Gabriel Agbeja, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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